Afghan Translator for Western Journalist Killed, Taliban Says

The kidnapped translator for an Italian journalist was killed on Sunday in southern Afghanistan, a purported spokesman for the Taliban said. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Ajmal Nashqbandi, a freelance journalist and translator, was kidnapped along with Daniele Mastrogiacomo, of the Italian daily La Repubblica, and a driver in southern Helmand province on March 5. The driver was beheaded, and Mastrogiacomo was released March 19 in a much criticized swap for five Taliban militants.

The Taliban made a similar demand in return for the release of Nashqbandi.

"We asked for two Taliban commanders to be released in exchange for Ajmal Nashqbandi, but the government did not care for our demands, and today, at 3:05 p.m., we beheaded Ajmal in Garmsir district of Helmand province," said Shahabuddin Atal, who claimed to be a spokesman for regional Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, known for his cruelty.

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"When we demanded the exchange for the Italian journalist, the government released the prisoners, but for the Afghan journalist, the government did not care," Atal said, but his claim could not be independently verified.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said that police have no evidence yet that Nashqbandi has been killed.

Another Taliban spokesman who frequently speaks with the media, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said he was not aware of the killing.

Local Tolo television station also reported Atal's claim that Nashqbandi had been beheaded.